Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Gary Bauer - the anti-gay talking head who undermined the fight against HIV/AIDS in the Reagan Administration

Gary Bauer
The late President Reagan gets a lot of deserved flack for his negligence in the early days of the AIDS crisis. Today, we learned that there needs to be some flack dispensed around because Reagan isn't the only person in his Administration who needs to be called to the carpet.

According to Right Wing Watch:

Anyone who is familiar with Gary Bauer's anti-gay extremism will not be surprised to learn that his bigotry goes way back. Just in time for World AIDS Day, we now know that when Bauer was working in the Reagan White House, he fought hard to keep gay people off the nation’s first AIDS commission.

Right Wing Watch published part of a memo he sent to Reagan regarding this:

 3. Millions of Americans try to raise their children to believe that homosexuality is immoral. In many states homosexual practices are illegal, including sodomy. For you to appoint a known homosexual to a Presidential Commission will give homosexuality a stamp of acceptability. It will drive a wedge between us and many of our socially conservative supporters. 

4. While it is true that homosexuals have been major victims of AIDS, they are also responsible for its spread. Recent students show the average gay man with AIDS has had over 150 different sexual partners in the previous 12 months. 

Bauer proposed instead appointing a relative of someone with AIDS, or a caregiver, or as a last resort, a “reformed” homosexual: “that is, someone not currently living a gay life style. We have identified several individuals that meet that criteria.”

 In the end, Reagan ignored Bauer’s pleadings and appointed Frank Lilly, an openly gay geneticist, to the Presidential Commission on the HIV Epidemic.

Right Wing Watch also goes on to say that Bauer undermined the fight against HIV/AIDS in the Reagan Administration by keeping then Surgeon General C. Everett Koop from gaining access to the Reagan and the cabinet after the president asked Koop to prepare a report on AIDS.

Bauer’s role as an anti-gay zealot in the Reagan White House was also revealed in "Faith in the Halls of Power: How Evangelicals Joined the American Elite" by D. Michael Lindsay.

As Kyle reported back in 2010, the book says Bauer interfered with the efforts of Surgeon General C. Everett Koop when he was tasked with drafting a report on AIDS for President Reagan:

 [In 1986] President Reagan asked the surgeon general to prepare a report on AIDS as the United States confirmed its ten-thousandth case. Leaders of the evangelical movement did not want Koop to write the report, nor did senior White House staffers who shared Koop's evangelical convictions. As Dr. Koop related to me, "Gary Bauer [Reagan's chief advisor on domestic policy] ... was my nemesis in Washington because he kept me from the president. He kept me from the cabinet and he set up a wall of enmity between me and most of the people that surrounded Reagan because he believed that anybody who had AIDS ought to die with it. That was God's punishment for them." 

It is also worth knowing that after leaving the Reagan Administration, Bauer became the first president of an anti-gay group we all know well - the Family Research Council. Under Bauer's leadership, the organization created an ugly catalogue of homophobic lies and cherry-picked science which eventually led it to be designated in 2010 as an anti-gay hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Bauer is presently involved in the  Campaign for Working Families and Our American Values; two organization which supposedly works for "family values and faith."  Bauer is also looked upon as one of the leading voices of the conservative evangelical movement.

In my eyes, Bauer has taken his place amongst such notables as 'Bloody Mary' Tudor, Tomas de Torquemada, and others whose manic religious zeal and self-righteous mindset caused untold chaos to a host of innocents.

To some folks, maybe I am being a bit hyperbolic. Perhaps, but then again perhaps not.  I remember when HIV/AIDS came on the scene and began knocking down members of the lgbt community like a goddamn hurricane. I remember the ugly things people said about those affected by HIV/AIDS, such as when columnist Pat Buchanan said that nature was reaping retribution on the gay community.

And I remember, even though I was too young to take part in, the demand that Reagan address this issue. No one knows what would have happened had Reagan addressed the HIV/AIDS crisis sooner than he did. But it is rather nauseating and disturbing that there was someone in his cabinet who worked to undermine the fight against HIV/AIDS because he felt that those affected "deserved" what they got.

So what can be done with this knowledge of Bauer's "activities?" Just a simple word of mouth. Don't let it be forgotten. Tell the story. Repeat the story. Shine a spotlight on the story every chance you get. 

History will not be kind to Gary Bauer, so long as we have something to do with it.

4 comments :

Erica Cook said...

I was quite young when the aids epidemic became an issue. I didn't really understand what was going on. What I saw most were the people trying to keep kids out of classrooms because they were HIV+. As a kid who wasn't able to take part in all of what the others did because of my dyslexia I felt a kind of sympathy for the issue. I know now that it wasn't the same, but then it feel very much the same thing. The fact that it was associated with gays was made clear, but how didn't make sense to me. Looking back I get the impression that the attempt to humanize the disease came largely from separating it from the LGBT community. I also remember there being this feeling that if one got it from a transfusion then that was one thing, but anything else and one had it coming. Being about 9 I didn't really understand what that something else was.

James Hagerty said...

BlackTsunami My husband and I love you dearly but give it a rest! Bauer has no power! Think about it! Marcus Bachmann is more powerful!

BlackTsunami said...

It's less about power and more about not forgetting your history. If we choose to forget the role Bauer played in the initial HIV/AIDS crisis, we do a disservice to ourselves and those who had to deal with his actions in the 80s.

Parri said...

I was a kicked to the curb lesbian in the eighties, for the most part my family of friends were gay men. The fear hit hard before the dying started. There was a conspiracy theory several guys entertained that AIDS was cooked up by the government and released in LA to kill the gay male population. With all the animus it felt true.